Bell Helicopter officially opened its composite manufacturing facility in Broussard, La., yesterday. The new 28,000-sq-ft facility was designed specifically for manufacturing and repairing composites for most of the helicopter manufacturer’s in-production and legacy fleet. Bell said it implemented lean manufacturing processes throughout the facility to improve efficiencies and reduce lead times.
News and issues regarding all manner of civil and military rotorcraft and their powerplants, including helicopters, tiltrotors and unmanned air vehicles.
NTSB investigators are examining the tail-rotor drive assembly following the fatal crash of a 2003 Airbus Helicopters AS350B2–registered as N250FB–that plunged from its sixth-floor helipad to a Seattle street on Tuesday morning. Pilot Gary Pfitzner, 59, and cameraman Bill Strothman, 62, were killed in the crash, and a person on the ground was seriously injured.
Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has now awarded prime contracts to all four participating companies to begin Phase 1 development for the agency’s VTOL X-Plane program. Boeing and Karem Aircraft received contracts this week, to join Aurora Flight Sciences and Sikorsky. While all four have submitted proposals for unmanned vehicles, the technology that is to be developed has equal application to manned VTOL aircraft.
Bell Helicopter announced that Helisul Air Taxi placed an order for a Bell 429 and signed purchase agreements for three new Bell 505 Jet Ranger Xs last month at Heli-Expo. This was part of the nearly 200 total agreements announced at the end of the show. Based in Foz do Iguaçu, Helisul is the largest air-taxi company in Brazil and one of the largest in the world.
Sandel Avionics received multi-model STC approval from the FAA for its helicopter terrain awareness and warning system, HeliTaws. The approved model list (AML) STC for Part 27 and Part 29 helicopters allows models to be added progressively by updating the AML listing, provided similarity and differences are substantiated. Sandel’s ST3400H Part 27 AML-STC covers the Airbus Helicopters AS350 series, while the Part 29 approval is for Bell 412s. It is working on adding the Bell 206 and 212 series, as well as the Airbus Helicopters EC130.
Bell Helicopter secured orders and purchase commitments for 196 new helicopters from customers during Heli-Expo, which was held last week in Anaheim, Calif. This number includes more than 170 letters of intent for Bell’s circa-$1 million light single helicopter, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X, that was formally unveiled at the show.
State Sen. John Astle, a former Marine One pilot, wants to know why it is taking the Maryland State Police (MSP) so long to make its new fleet of AgustaWestland medium helicopters operational. MSP is replacing its aging fleet of AS365Ns with larger AW139s and will fly them dual pilot.
Ontario’s provincially operated air ambulance service continues to restructure, eliminating 25 management jobs–including vice president, aviation–adding eight new jobs and reclassifying 15 to save $1 million. Ornge still employs 650.
Nepal-based Shree Airlines took delivery of the first of five AS350B3es it ordered last year from Airbus Helicopters. Shree Airlines will use its B3e fleet for search-and-rescue, aerial work and disaster relief missions in Nepal. It also plans to expand passenger transport and utility mission operations into Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
Air Greenland announced last month it has canceled the purchase of two EC225s. “In August 2013, the company observed that the market for offshore operations around Greenland had not developed as expected since the time of the order in 2011,” the carrier explained. It also said it attempted to sell the rotorcraft to other parties with no success. Under the final agreement, Air Greenland will pay a waiver of DKK16 million ($2.8 million), just over 4 percent of the value of the 2011 contract.